While several professors cancelled class and students skipped their studies, nearly 150 protesters, counter-protesters and onlookers choked the Pardall tunnel entrance to campus for several hours yesterday as part of a rally over illegal immigration and immigrants’ rights.
The large crowd remained stationed at the main entrance onto campus from Isla Vista from early morning until about 12:45 p.m. when most of the protestors left to rally in downtown Santa Barbara. On campus, an unknown number of professors, teaching assistants and lecturers cancelled class in support of the nationwide rallies, and a few on-campus workers left their posts.
“It’s always good to be amongst people who are fighting the system,” former Black Panther and activist Ashanti Alston, who will speak tonight at 6 at the MultiCultural Center, said to the crowd. “We dream and we move on our dreams.”
Protesters chanted and encouraged students to boycott school, work and businesses yesterday as part of the Great American Boycott, which was intended to show how heavily the nation depends on immigrant labor and contributions to the economy. Using a megaphone, one protester chanted, “Don’t go to school … Don’t go to work … Don’t let capitalism own you,” to passers-by.
“[The country needs] the labor more than we need the money,” Luis Prat, one of the protesters, said to the crowd. “Without labor this country will not move.”
Many of the protesters’ complaints were directed toward HR 4437, a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on Dec. 16. The bill calls for increased border patrol, and would create more checkpoints and make it a felony to come to the U.S. illegally or to help some one do so. There are several alternatives to the House bill currently before the Senate, and nothing has been finalized.
Protesters were also concerned with what they considered violations of human rights in how illegal immigrants are currently treated.
“Immigrants are human beings like us, and there’s no reason they shouldn’t have rights like the people who were born here,” third-year geography major Andy Fenelon said.
Beating on pots and large water jugs, and noisily shaking water bottles full of beans, the protesters chanted slogans such as “Ain’t no power like the power of the people, ’cause the power of the people don’t stop,” while holding signs that said things like “We Are Not Illegals” and “George Bush Doesn’t Care About Immigrants.”
A few UCSB Police Dept. and I.V. Foot Patrol officers stood on either side of the ring of protesters, telling bicyclists to dismount and walk through to avoid hitting the protesters. In addition, a number of UCSB administrators, including Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs Michael Young and Dean of Students Yonnie Harris stood on the sidelines, watching the protest and talking to attendees.
A great deal of tension arose around 11 a.m. when eight members of College Republicans descended the stairs of an apartment directly adjacent to the protest. Two members wore shirts bearing the letters “INS,” while others held signs saying “If Jos